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E05641: Venantius Fortunatus, in a poem On saint *Medard (bishop of Noyon buried at Soissons, ob. 557/558, S00168) recounts miracles during his lifetime, and after his death at his tomb in Soissons (north-east Gaul), where King Sigibert completed the construction of his church. Poem 2.16, written in Latin in Gaul, 565/575.

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posted on 2018-06-04, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Venantius Fortunatus, Poems 2.16 (De Sancto Medardo, 'On Saint Medard', BHL 5863)


Medard performed several miracles during his lifetime, especially with the blind, whom he healed with his touch (lines 25-30). He stopped a thief who was trying to steal grapes (lines 31-48); and exposed another thief who tried to steal a cattle-bell (lines 49-64).

After his body was laid on a bier, a blind man was cured (lines 65-76). Another man came to his church in Soissons, where he was miraculously freed from strong handcuffs and fetters (lines 77-92). A second prisoner, in wooden shackles, was similarly freed after he arrived at the church (lines 93-104). An old woman with knotted fingers was healed at Medard's tomb (lines 105-122). Medard also cured a young girl (now dedicated to virginity), and a baby girl, with similar deformities of the hand (lines 123-138). Another blind man was cured, after he had been advised in his sleep by Medard to come to his church, and had spent three days lying in front of his tomb (lines 139-156).

King Sigibert built this church, for whom Fortunatus invokes the protection of the saint (lines 161-164).

Finally, Fortunatus himself seeks Medard's aid (lines 165-166).

Text: Leo 1881, 44-48.
Summary Katarzyna Wojtalik.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Medard, bishop of Noyon buried at Soissons (Gaul), ob. 557/558 : S00168

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Venantius Fortunatus

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle at martyrdom and death Healing diseases and disabilities Punishing miracle Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Prisoners Other lay individuals/ people Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Venantius Fortunatus was born in northern Italy, near Treviso, and educated at Ravenna. In the early 560s he crossed the Alps into Merovingian Gaul, where he spent the rest of his life, making his living primarily through writing Latin poetry for the aristocracy of northern Gaul, both secular and ecclesiastical. His first datable commission in Gaul is a poem to celebrate the wedding in 566 of the Austrasian royal couple, Sigibert and Brunhild. His principal patrons were Radegund and Agnes, the royal founder and the first abbess of the monastery of the Holy Cross at Poitiers, as well as Gregory, the historian and bishop of Tours, Leontius, bishop of Bordeaux, and Felix, bishop of Nantes, but he also wrote poems for several kings and for many other members of the aristocracy. In addition to occasional poems for his patrons, Fortunatus wrote a four-book epic poem about Martin of Tours, and several works of prose and verse hagiography. The latter part of his life was spent in Poitiers, and in the 590s he became bishop of the city; he is presumed to have died early in the 7th century. For Fortunatus' life, see Brennan 1985; George 1992, 18-34; Reydellet 1994-2004, vol. 1, vii-xxviii; PCBE 4, 'Fortunatus', 801-822. The eleven books of Poems (Carmina) by Fortunatus were almost certainly collected and published at three different times: Books 1 to 7, which are dedicated to Gregory of Tours, in 576; Books 8 and 9 after 584, probably in 590/591; and Books 10-11 only after their author's death. A further group of poems, outside the structure of the books, and known from only one manuscript, has been published in modern editions as an Appendix to the eleven books. For further discussion, see Reydellet 1994-2004, vol. 1, lxviii-lxxi; George 1992, 208-211. Almost all of Fortunatus' poems are in elegiac couplets: one hexameter line followed by one pentameter line. For the cult of saints, Fortunatus' poems are primarily interesting for the evidence they provide of the saints venerated in northern Gaul, since many were written to celebrate the completion of new churches and oratories, and some to celebrate collections of relics. For an overview of his treatment of the cult of saints, see Roberts 2009, 165-243.


Poem 2.16 was probably written on the occasion of the dedication of the church of Medard in Soissons. Gregory of Tours records that the work was started by Chlothar, and completed by Sigibert, his son (Histories 4.19, E02097). The poem was written before Sigibert's assassination in 575.


Editions and translations: Leo, F., Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri Italici opera poetica (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 4.1; Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1881). Roberts, M., Poems: Venantius Fortunatus (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 46; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017). George, J., Venantius Fortunatus, Personal and Political Poems (Translated Texts for Historians 23; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1995). Reydellet, M., Venance Fortunat, Poèmes, 3 vols. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1994-2004). Further reading: Brennan, B., "The Career of Venantius Fortunatus," Traditio 41 (1985), 49-78. George, J., Venantius Fortunatus: A Latin Poet in Merovingian Gaul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). Roberts, M., The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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